I’m always excited by the prospect of revisiting an author whose debut did anything from spark my interest to steal my heart, but I dare say 2018 is the first year I’m utterly overwhelmed by the sophomore class. This year, it spans authors who made their debut appearance anywhere from 2012 all the way to 2017, and the voices and stories it captures along the way are intense, romantic, diverse, beautiful…in short, exactly what you’d expect from the authors who brought you their wonderful first books.
See all 2018 previews here.
Busted, by Gina Ciocca (January 2)
One of my favorite things is finding reliable names in contemporary romance, those authors you can trust to deliver the swoons, the feels, the kisses, the tropes we’ve come to rely on with storytelling methods and plot points we haven’t. Last Year’s Mistake is one of my favorite contemporary YA romance debuts, and almost three years after its release, Ciocca has come back as strong as ever. (And with a vengeance—you can get even more Ciocca later this year; her third contemporary romance, A Kiss in the Dark, releases March 6. More on that here.) In Busted, Marisa accidentally falls into the role of unofficial high school PI, helping her classmates catch their cheating significant others in the act. But it lands her in a tricky situation when she realizes she’s falling for one of the guys she’s supposed to be tailing.
A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, by Atia Abawi (January 23)
There’s no question Abawi writes books that need to be written, from debut The Secret Sky, set in Afghanistan, to her latest, which centers around a Syrian refugee whose family has lost everything. Tareq sees his city torn apart, a public beheading, and threats from Daesh fighters, and he and his family (or at least what remains of it after the bombs hit) know it’s time to move on and leave their beloved country behind. They travel from Syria through Turkey and southern Europe en route to a new life in Germany, giving readers a journey that may be fictional on these pages but is stone-cold reality for so many.
This is Not a Love Letter, by Kim Purcell (January 30)
It has been almost six years since Purcell’s debut, Trafficked, hit shelves, but she’s back with a noteworthy mystery that definitely begs for discussion. Jessie suggested a one-week break so she and Chris could reassess their futures before graduation, but they never make it to the conversation at the end. Chris disappears, and though the police are writing him off as a runaway, Jessie knows there has to be more to the story. Chris is the only black student in a rural town and he’s already been a target of a beating; the fact that he disappeared near where that happened just a few weeks earlier can’t be a coincidence. Their relationship and history and her fears and concerns unfold in the form of a letter she writes to him, a response of sorts to the love letters she writes him weekly, but will there be justice to be found at the end of it?
Winner Take All, by Laurie Devore (January 30)
Fans of edgy YA starring ruthless girls (like, ahem, yours truly) have found a killer new voice in Devore, who smashed onto the YA scene with How to Break a Boy and returns now with a take on enemies-to-lovers I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. Nell is determined to win at everything possible, and especially to bury Jackson Hart while doing it. But Jackson’s got privilege that Nell doesn’t, and it keeps him on top no matter what she does. Still, the two are irresistibly drawn to each other, and despite their rivalry, they find themselves in a heated romance. Or is it? With Nell suspicious it’s just another twisted move on Jackson’s part, she’ll have to take things to a truly toxic level if she wants to defeat him for good.
In Search Of Us by Ava Dellaira (March 6)
The author of the highly acclaimed Love Letters From the Dead returns with a multigenerational love story centered around mother-and-daughter pair Marilyn and Angie. Marilyn’s love story began at seventeen, when she met Angie’s father, James. But he died before Angie was born, and while Marilyn is a great, devoted mother, being biracial makes it extra difficult that Angie only knows her white mother and has never met her black father. Then she learns she has an uncle she never know about, and it blows things wide open. If her uncle was a secret, maybe her father’s being alive is, too? The only way to find out is to do her best to find him, and if that means traveling from New Mexico to California, so be it. And if that means bringing her ex-boyfriend along for the ride…well. It’s certainly going to be an interesting trip, and no one has any idea what awaits them at their final destination.
After the Shot Drops, by Randy Ribay (March 6)
The author of An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes is taking on multiple perspectives again in this fraught friendship novel about changes, choices, and consequence. Bunny and Nasir are at an impasse. They’ve been best friends for years, but when Bunny gets a basketball scholarship at a private school and starts dating the girl Nasir wants, they suddenly couldn’t be further apart. Bunny’s killing it on the court and trying to fit in with his new wealthier classmates, and Nasir’s hanging out more with Wallace, his cousin who can’t seem to catch a break and is facing eviction. When Wallace’s attempts to dig himself out of debt have him betting hard against Bunny, it’s Nasir who gets torn in two.
The Way the Light Bends, by Cordelia Jensen (March 27)
If you’ve already read Jensen’s debut, Skyscraping, then you know how beautifully she writes a novel in verse. Thankfully, she’s back with another one, about a girl struggling to find her place in the world the further she drifts from the “twin” who used to anchor her. Though they aren’t actually twins, Linc was born biologically to their mother just four months after Holly was adopted from Ghana, so they were always extremely close. Then Holly gets a boyfriend while continuing to excel at school and everything else, while narrator Linc struggles in every area but one: the photography passion her parents don’t support. When Linc makes a choice that pushes Holly even further and puts her on thin ice at school, she convinces herself there’s only one way to fix everything…but it requires making some even more questionable moves first. She’ll have to prove to everyone she knows her own path best, and hopefully reconnect with those she cares about in the process, if the truths she learns as she tries don’t shred her heart first. (For even more Jensen this year, check out her first middle grade novel, Every Shiny Thing, coauthored with debut Laurie Morrison.)
Relative Strangers, by Paula Garner (April 10)
Garner’s gorgeous debut, Phantom Limbs, was one of my sobbiest reads ever, so admittedly I approach her follow-up with a combination of awe and terror…but, honestly, mostly excitement. Jules has always felt adrift within her own family, having never known her father and failing to bond with her seemingly disinterested mother. Then she stumbles on a family secret: she spent most of the first two years of her life in foster care. With barely any information but a lot of determination and resentment, Jules follows the little lead she has and finds the kind of family she’s always dreamed of, and learns they’d wanted to adopt her. She also learns she had a foster brother who’s psyched to see her again…and is now all grown up and too much for Jules’ fragile, open heart. With all she’s learned, how can she and her mother ever get their relationship back to where it needs to be? (Fun fact: Garner’s third novel, coauthored with fellow sophomore Audrey Coulthurst, is already slated for later this year.)
Picture Us in the Light, by Kelly Loy Gilbert (April 10)
In case you’ve somehow missed me saying it a million times, Conviction is one of my favorite YA debuts of all time. (And considering it was nominated for a Morris, I’m guessing I’m not alone there.) So you can imagine that every minute since I read it back in 2015 has been spent waiting for more from its author…and wow, does she deliver in this follow-up. Danny Cheng has a scholarship to RISD, supportive parents, and a great best friend in Harry, but there are still so many pieces missing. For one thing, his feelings for Harry have become consuming in a way that Harry’s having a girlfriend, Regina (Danny’s other best friend), would suggest he doesn’t reciprocate. For another, nothing has been the same since tragedy claimed one of their friends, whom Danny can’t stop wishing he’d treated better when she was alive. And finally, there’s the mystery of the box he discovers in his father’s closet, whose secrets threaten to tear them all apart. This is one of those books that will burrow into your brain and stay there long after you’ve finished, which, honestly, may just be Gilbert’s specialty.
On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas (May 1)
Hard to imagine there’s an eye in the world not fixed on the follow-up to The Hate U Give, Thomas’s blockbuster Black Lives Matter–inspired debut that’s still rocking the top five on the New York Times bestseller list nearly a year after release. But this sophomore promises to be its own brand of magic, about an aspiring teen rapper named Bri and set in the world of Garden Heights.
Valley Girls, by Sarah Nicole Lemon (May 8)
The author of one of YA’s most unique and nuanced friendship novels, Done Dirt Cheap, is back with another wild child, this one named Rilla, who’s looking to turn her life around after getting busted for partying right after moving in with her sister, a park ranger at Yosemite. The first step? Get in good with a pack of serious climbers to give herself a focused goal that’ll keep her in line and on the healthier path to a closer relationship with her sister. Climbing proves to be amazing, with literal ups and downs that change Rilla’s life and make her feel like she’s finally becoming the girl she was meant to be. But what about the girl she was aiming to be when she came in? Can she be who she needs to be for both herself and her sister?
All of This is True, by Lygia Day Peñaflor (May 15)
Peñaflor’s media expertise came out in full force with her debut, Unscripted Joss Byrd, but it’s her follow-up that uses it to create this outrageous and unputdownable meta mindscrew. Fatima Ro’s literary debut, Undertow, is an instant cult classic for Miri and her friends, and when they get the chance to become close to the author, it’s a dream come true. They share everything with her in an effort to stake a claim on her fame and charisma, and are stunned to find that in her sophomore novel (see? meta already), she has laid all their secrets bare, using them to fuel the plot of her novel. But they weren’t little secrets, and one of them being lands one of the teens in a coma. Now, as his friends wait for him to wake up, the truths they’ve shared and lived slowly unfold in this addictive examination of human behavior and the quest for absolution.
Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany D. Jackson (June 5)
If you had the same experience reading Allegedly as I did (and let’s be real, you definitely did), then your jaw has probably been hanging open for the past year. Well, Jackson’s not here to pick it back up for you. Instead, let’s all enjoy as she messes with us even more, telling the story of a girl named Monday who doesn’t show up to school one day—or ever again—leaving her best friend, Claudia, distraught and alone. The worst part is, no one else even seems to notice her disappearance. Neither Monday’s mother nor her sister has any information, and as the two friends were each other’s platonic everything, there’s no one else to ask. How can you possibly find someone no one else thinks is missing?
From Twinkle, With Love, by Sandhya Menon (June 5)
If you’re a contemporary romance fan, When Dimple Met Rishi needs no introduction, but you’ll definitely want to meet aspiring filmmaker Twinkle. And she wants to meet you, and the rest of the world—she’s dying for an audience for her movies. It’s Sahil Roy—her crush, Neil’s, twin—who gives her the best shot when he asks her to direct one for an upcoming festival. Twinkle’s thrilled at the shot to both show off her work and get close to Neil, and when she starts getting mysterious emails from “N,” she’s confident it means things with Neil have truly clicked. Unfortunately, spending time with nerdy but adorable Sahil has made her heart jump ship, and now he’s the twin she wants. Can she make all her dreams come true, even the ones she never saw coming? (Catch more of Menon in the YA essay anthology out later this year, Our Stories, Our Voices, edited by Amy Reed.)
For even more exciting upcoming sophomores, check out Chaotic Good, by Whitney Gardner (March 13); Price Guide to the Occult, by Leslye Walton (March 13); Everywhere You Want to Be, by Christina June (May 1); I Felt a Funeral in My Brain, by Will Walton (May 29); The Summer of Us, by Cecilia Vinesse (June 5); and Soulstruck, by Natasha Sinel (June 5)!